Dar es Salaam. Dr Salmin Amour, who was then Zanzibar, had intended to change the Constitution to allow him to run for a third presidency tenure.
His proposal of changing the Constitution reached the National Executive of Commit-tee of his party, CCM, and there was every sign of a fierce debate over the matter.
It was claimed that the sup-porters of Dr Salmin had vowed to stand firm to ensure that they succeeded.
No person is more popular than the party—Mkapa
Under the strategy, it was claimed that the supporters of Dr Salmin had already planned to enter meetings of NEC with their stand to ensure that he was either allowed to change the Constitution or Zanzibaris with-drew from CCM altogether and if necessary dissolve the Union.
As this was in progress, on February 22, 2000 the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mr Benjamin Mkapa, opened a two-day seminar for CCM district and regional leaders in Dodoma Region.
During the seminar the president said there was no leader who could brag that their popularity was a result of their own individual efforts.
“That popularity shall remain with the party only and not with an individual because without CCM that person would not have been famous,” said Mkapa.
Mkapa’s statement was silent-ly objected to by some leaders within CCM, who wanted to change the Constitution by basing on the popularity of a person.
On February 23 a group backing Dr Salmin for the change of the Constitution arrived in Dodoma and soon showed their true colours.
Religious leaders speak out
The next day, on February 24, The Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) warned that a constitution was not something that could be manipulated by leaders because the particular constitution was a basic law that expressed the will of the people.
In the statement read by TEC president Bishop Justin Samba, the bishops said the constitution could not be changed by the style of one portion to another just for the interests of certain people.
“A constitution is not a tool to be manipulated or ignored by rulers, but an administration is the servant of a constitution. Our warning is that leaders should not take the constitution lightly,” said part of the statement.
As those things transpired, at least seven CCM stalwarts were, on the day, prevented from boarding a government plane that landed in Zanzibar to pick Chief Minister Dr Mohamed Bilal to Dodoma to attend a meeting of the Central Commit-tee of the party.
They were stopped from boarding the plane by the pilot because their names were missing from the list of people who were supposed to be in the contingent of Dr Bilal.
At the same time, a group of CCM elders sent a high level delegation to Dodoma to exert pressure on the Central Committee of CCM to assent Zanzibar’s constitutional changes with the fear that the Zanzibar Revolution would not have been recognized had another party won in polls on the Islands.
On Friday, February 25, a sitting of the CC took place to deliberate on preparing agenda of National Executive Commit-tee meeting, which was expected to take place on the following day.
During break time in the evening of February 25, members of the sitting were in small groups discussing while Zanzibar members were seen together comparing notes.
Among Zanzibar members, who were seen in one group were Home Affairs minister Ali Ameir Mohamed, Zanzibar Finance minister Amina Salum Ali and Zanzibar CCM Deputy Secretary General Hassan Mussa Takrima.
However, the secretary of the committee of the CCM MPs, Suleiman N’hunga, who was also the Mwera MP, was seen in tete a tete with Dr Isau Idarusi.
The meeting of CC was led by CCM Chairman, President Benjamin Mkapa, and was also attended by other members including Dr Salmin himself and Zanzibar Chief Minister Dr Mohamed Bilal.
Dr Salmin’s bid rejected
NEC rejected outright the so called “constructive strategy” of changing the presidential limit of Zanzibar’s presidency. NEC reached the conclusion of rejecting CCM Zanzibar proposal as was presented by its Deputy Secretary General, Has-san Mussa Takrima.
NEC makes a statement
A special report by NEC said the proposal of changing limits of presidential tenures needed to be discussed with calm minds and not emotions.
“This needs to be scrutinised critically to see whether there is a need for changing the pol-icy, not only for the Zanzibar presidency, but also that of the United Republic of Tanzania,” said NEC’s statement issued by CCM Secretary General Philip Mangula.
In its statement, CC said, “NEC observed a piece of advice that it was not wise to associate the proposal on changing the constitution with Dr Salmin Amour to remain in power after his tenured of office ends.
“The issue of changing the two-term of leadership can be discussed because Chama Cha Mapinduzi always been flexible with its policies and decisions to accommodate political and social changes of the times,” read the statement. The final CCM stand ad expressed by NEC meant that Dr Salmin would not be allowed to seek re-election for Zanzibar presidency during the 2000 General Election.
Dr Salmin’s word
After the rejection of the proposal, Dr Salmin spoke before NEC that he had no intention of seeking reelection as president of Zanzibar and that he would support a presidential candidate nominated by the party.
“During the tension, there were those who pointed directly to and branded me as beig ‘power hungry’ and every other name they could, but I prayed to God to help me and today we have reached a consensus. This is because we were confused by external pressure.
“Let bygones be bygones and those who were worried about me, they should not worry any longer. Let’s get back to our unity that is our pillar because there is no vic-tory of someone just because of his power,” said Dr Salmin.
Opposition parties happily welcomed the decision of CCM’s NEC of rejecting the proposed changes of the Constitution of Zanzibar.
CUF chairman Prof Ibrahim Lipumba was quoted by the media as saying, “If there is anything important to the Constitution of Zanzibar, then presidential limit is one of them.”
UDP Chairman John Cheyo said CCM had no reason of wasting time and misusing money to find the answer that they already had.
Mr Cheyo queried: “Dr Salmin took power under a ten-year rule contract (two phases of five year each). So, where did he get the guts of extending the presidential limit?”However, Cheyo warned CCM not to do things contrary to ethics, saying that it had cultivated a culture of making the Constitution its property.
“The Constitution belongs to citizens as it cannot be turned into its property. If anybody wants to change it, then they must first seek views from the citizens through a referendum,” said Cheyo.
After the bid of changing the Constitution of Zanzibar so that Dr Salmin could seek reelection for the third time as president, the task remained was to find his successor.Tomorrow, we are going to focus on how the successor of Dr Salmin was obtained.